Roku to Launch Live Local News Destination
Roku also updates its OS, expands sports content and new Roku TVs hit retail
SAN JOSE, Calif.—Roku has announced significant upgrades to its content and user experience, with platform-wide updates for its operating system (OS) and plans to expand live TV offerings.
CBS Sports, MLB.TV, NBA App, and NBC Sports will join the roster of supported channel partners of the Roku Sports experience. In addition, Roku plans to launch a Local News destination so that users can watch live news channels personalized by location, or stream channels from major cities across the U.S.
The move will bring together local news offerings in one place and make it easier to access them. In some cases that could reduce the value of local news in the pay TV bundle, which in turn could put pressure on retransmission fees.
Currently, the local news stations featured within this new destination are powered by The Roku Channel. Examples of local news stations that users can tune-in to include: WNBC - New York, KNBC - Los Angeles, WMAQ-TV - Chicago, WCAU - Philadelphia, and NBC News SF Bay Area and many others, Roku reported.
In addition, Roku announced the features and availability of its new Roku Select and Plus Series TVs, the company’s first designed and built TVs. Available in 11 models ranging from 24” to 75” to fit any room or budget, Roku Select and Plus Series TVs became available on March 9 exclusively from Best Buy stores and BestBuy.com, while the new Roku Wireless Soundbar, offering a seamless wireless complement to Roku Select and Plus TVs, will be available exclusively at Best Buy stores and online later this month.
“As the #1 selling OS in three major markets, we understand what people want when it comes to a streaming platform – a simple yet delightful experience that feels personalized to them,” said Preston Smalley, vice president of viewer product, Roku. “The latest updates to our powerful OS make Roku's software even more intuitive and curated, so users can spend less time searching for content and more time enjoying their favorite entertainment.”
OS 12 will roll out to users in the coming weeks, with additional updates like new supported channel partners, content expansion, and mobile app upgrades rolling out in the coming months.
New features coming to Roku devices in the U.S. in the following months include:
- Local News: Roku’s Live TV experience boasts 350+ free linear TV streaming channels across a variety of genres. With the launch of Local News, users can watch live news channels personalized by location, or stream channels from major cities across the U.S. Plus, news recommendations are now powered by AI, making them smarter than ever and ensuring a curated experience within the Live TV Zone. Roku users can search for “local news” using either Roku Search or Roku Voice or visit the Live TV Zone on their Roku Home Screen Menu.
- Premium Subscriptions: The newest addition to Categories within Roku’s Live TV Channel Guide, Premium Subscriptions allows users to quickly discover and sign up for premium channels they are not currently subscribed to, expanding their Live TV content offering. Premium Subscriptions will join previously launched Categories (Recents, Favorites, and Subscribed) and genres including News, Sports, Entertainment, and more. Categories in Roku’s Live TV Channel Guide was previously last fall.
- Content Access and Discovery
- Sports: Last year, Roku launched the all-new Sports experience, a centralized location where users can browse and stream live and upcoming sports-related events across the Roku platform, making it easier than ever for fans to root for their favorite teams. Coverage will continue to expand with golf and additional soccer programming, including Spanish-language game coverage around select soccer leagues. Also, in the coming months, users will experience a more personalized Sports experience based on their location, favorite team, go-to sport, and viewing habits. Additionally, CBS Sports, MLB.TV, NBA App, and NBC Sports will join the list of supported channels for the Sports experience.
- Continue Watching: Located within What to Watch, Continue Watching gives users a single location to jump back into the content they love. Content from supported channels will now show up nearly instantly in the Continue Watching row after a user has finished streaming their favorite TV show or movie. Additionally, discovery+ and Prime Video will join the list of supported channels of the Continue Watching feature, with BET+, Freevee, Frndly TV, and STARZ launching soon.
- Roku Mobile App: The updated Roku Mobile App will have a more refined, elevated, and visually immersive interface, making it the go-to destination for all your account and streaming needs. In the coming months, users will notice the following upgrades:
- A revamped Account Hub: Roku is introducing an expanded Account Hub where users can create and adjust Roku Account preferences seamlessly. Updates will include a new sign-up and sign-in process; the ability to establish security, privacy, and notification preferences; device management on their account; and more.
- A more streamlined Home Screen: Within the Mobile App’s Home tab, users will notice a simpler interface with new features tailored to them. These include dedicated Sports and Continue Watching rows, more ways to discover new content, and more.
- Live TV Channel “Guide” button: Previously, Roku introduced a dedicated Live TV Channel “Guide” button on the mobile app remote when connected to Roku TVs. In the coming months, this feature will expand to connected players, enabling users to instantly launch the Live TV Channel Guide right from their phone.
- Enhanced Roku Photo Streams: Last year, Roku announced Roku Photo Streams, giving users the ability to share photos with friends and family and turn their TVs into the biggest photo album in their home. With today’s updates, managing and uploading images to your photo streams will be faster and easier than before. With a new mobile integration, users will be able to upload images right from their photo album, choose thumbnails for their streams, simply add or delete images, set streams as screensavers, and share streams with family and friends right from their phones. Plus, users can now upload up to 1,000 images per stream.
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George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.